Introducing: Native Eloquence
Adam Hirsch is among the many great people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this summer. And it became even more a pleasure when he pointed me to his debut EP. He makes music under the moniker Native Eloquence, and just released his self-titled debut EP at the end of July. I was instantly blown away. Having recorded all the instruments himself, Adam has managed to weave together a beautiful and eclectic collection of sounds that are so distinctly his, I’d dare you to find something that sounds like it.
Adam was kind enough to “sit down” with me and answer some of my questions in a recent email interview. Be sure to cop the EP for free below and read what he has to say about one of my now favorite projects, Native Eloquence.
So let’s just get the general stuff out of the way: who are you, where are you from, how old are you, what is your occupation right now?
My name is Adam Hirsch and I’m twenty years old. I was born and raised in Santa Monica, CA, and I currently attend Oberlin College in Northern Ohio. In terms of occupation, I guess I could say several things: I’m mainly a student at this point, studying English at Oberlin, but I also have a job on campus cataloging the school’s jazz record collection, and I run a music blog, label, and collective called Stereocure with my best friends from LA.
Those all sound pretty awesome, and I’m sure those all play into the kind of music you make in some way. Tell me about Native Eloquence. What’s the name about, and how long has it existed, even just for you?
The name comes from a monologue in a Eugene O’Neill play called Long Day’s Journey Into Night. When I read it like four years ago I immediately liked the sound of that phrase, and kept it in the back of my mind to use as title for something creative one day. In the last year or so, those words took on a new meaning for me when I went through this weird period of musical re-evaluation. I’ve been a jazz musician since I was 9, starting on clarinet and moving to mostly saxophone, so that has been my way of making music for most of my life. But at a certain point I just realized that it wasn’t really working for me. To be a serious jazz player, it takes a very specific discipline and work ethic that I just didn’t really have, but I knew that I still loved music more than anything and wanted to be a serious musician. So I started playing more guitar, piano, singing, messing around on the computer, writing lyrics, and trying to make something that felt more personal and sincere to my influences and feelings. When I actually got some recordings I was happy with, I realized that I had this new musical language at my disposal that felt way more natural and authentic than anything I had done before. So Native Eloquence seemed like the perfect title for it.
It’s amazing, because listening to your EP, you can hear all of those influences you talked about being played out. You’re jazz background, your electronic experimentation, the poetry of your lyrics, etc. It’s really music that defies genre, and is truly an expression of you as an individual. Is this the music you always thought you would make, or wanted to make?
Hmmm. It’s hard to say. If you asked me five years ago if I ever though I would make electronic music on my computer, I would probably laugh in your face. That is something I got into pretty recently. But I think something that’s been inside me for a while is this desire to somehow bring my influences together, as different as they are. I think that I’m still not even close to being successful with that, but I’m beginning to think that it’s possible. Ralph Ellison has this quote where he says that “the step from spirit of the spirituals and the Beethoven of the symphonies isn’t as far as it seems”. I really think that’s true of all good music—it’s not all really as different as we think it is. It took a long time for me to realize that before I could try to write and record my own music and be comfortable with using a bunch of different ideas in one context. But I definitely couldn’t have predicted it sounding like it does.
Well, I would say you’re closer than you think to bringing your influences together! It’s amazing that a creative effort such as making music, done in a real genuine way, can surprise not only the recipient/listener, but also the creator himself. In addition to the electronic elements in your music, there’s an even greater amount of real instrumentation it sounds like. I know you played all those instruments yourself for the recording, but have you started playing live? I’m wondering how all those elements are worked out live? Do you have a band? Is it just you? Basically, how do you do it?!
I actually just played this music for the first time live, as well as some new material. I played by myself, which was pretty tough in some ways, but also a lot of fun to work out between a bunch of different elements. I had my computer with some different samples, beats, and effects that I was cueing with a MIDI controller, I had two mics (one for sax, clarinet and drums and one for voice) running into a loop pedal which then ran into a bunch of other effects pedals, and then I also played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and synth. It got pretty hectic at times, like when I had to play guitar and launch samples at the same time, or even just remembering to turn certain things on or off, up or down. The set crashed and burned literally every time I played it except at the actual performance, so that was a huge relief. I think I’m starting to get the hang of the live rig; I actually just wrote a bunch of new material specifically for that setup. But there’s a lot of room for change in the future. I guess the live setting will evolve as the music does, and vice versa.
That sounds amazing! You mentioned evolving, which is perhaps the most crucial thing of any human endeavor. Not only the ability to evolve, but the essential willingness to evolve. With that said, what do you see in the future of Native Eloquence? What is the musical environment like at Oberlin?
The music scene in Oberlin is probably one of the biggest reasons that I underwent this musical overhaul like I mentioned. It’s unbelievable – a tiny one-street town in the middle of rural Ohio, and it’s the most active and diverse musical environment you could imagine. Its a music conservatory and liberal arts college combined on one campus, so you’ve got all this amazing classical, jazz, and contemporary stuff happening in the conservatory, and then the college kids pretty much cover the rest of it: folk, hip-hop, punk, electronic, noise, improv, etc. There’s free live music literally every night of the week, and there’s always this really open dialogue taking place between different kinds of music and musical perspectives. The people there have really inspired me to get outside my comfort zone musically.
One thing in particular I’ve really been inspired by lately in Oberlin is all of the classical music. I was so ignorant about that stuff before I got to college, and now the music is just hitting me like a ton of bricks. And that is something that really interests me in terms of the future of Native Eloquence – I’m getting into the idea of it being sort of a one-man chamber group, and facing this challenge of trying to evoke the textures of a huge orchestra by myself, whether that’s through production, or instrumental arrangements, or live looping.
It sounds like you have a lot to work with and an amazing environment to work things out in. Thanks so much for letting us in on Native Eloquence, I’m sure this EP is only the beginning of great things to come. In parting, could you tell us the most ideal setting you can possibly think of for listening to the Native Eloquence EP?
Burn the music onto a blank CD, drive to the top of a mountain in the middle of the ocean, put the CD in the car stereo at 4:30 pm (weather conditions should be slightly cloudy with winds at 5 mph). If you don’t have a car or can’t afford one, I suggest recording the music to a blank cassette tape, putting it in a boom box, and playing it at full volume as you walk around your neighborhood with a friend or perhaps your dog or your friend and his dog. That’s pretty ideal.
Endless thanks for reaching out Tim, I’ve got so much love for PORTALS and Smoke Don’t Smoke and all the amazing work you guys are doing for music and musicians, seriously keeping it real.